Group 5A Elements: Definition & Properties

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  • 0:02 Group 5A Elements
  • 1:08 Properties
  • 3:18 Individual Elements
  • 7:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

The group 5A elements aren't as recognizable as other elements on the periodic table, but they are important nonetheless. This lesson will examine properties they share and will give some examples of why this group is so important.

Group 5A Elements

Some elements get all of the glory. In fact, chances are you have even talked about some of these popular elements today.

  • I need to get some oxygen!
  • Get me some tinfoil for this pan
  • How much chlorine is in that swimming pool?

But some elements aren't quite so recognizable. I mean it's doubtful you said either of these statements today:

  • I need some antimony for my infrared detector
  • Get me some bismuth for my upset stomach

Although antimony and bismuth aren't as recognizable as say oxygen, they make up a very important group of elements called group 5A.

Let's quickly look at the group 5A elements, which are located towards the right side of the periodic table. Group 5A includes Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Arsenic (As), Antimony (Sb), and Bismuth (Bi).

Sometimes group 5A is known as Group 15 or Group VA, it just depends on the periodic table you are viewing.

So take a deep breath (which is actually about 78% nitrogen), and prepare to be wowed by these not-so-famous elements!

Properties of the Group 5A Elements

Elements are placed in groups because they share similar properties, so before we look at all of the uses for each element in group 5A, let's look at what they have in common. By the way, groups are the vertical columns on a periodic table.

With the exception of nitrogen, all of these elements are solids at room temperature. They all have 5 valence electrons, which are the outermost electrons, farthest away from the center of the atom. These valence electrons help determine who the element can bond with, or attach to, as well as its properties.

All of the elements in group 5A become more metallic as you go down the group. In fact nitrogen and phosphorus, which can be found at the top of the group, aren't metals at all. They are classified as non-metals. Arsenic is a metalloid, meaning it has properties of metals and non-metals. Depending on who you talk to, Antimony can be classified as a metal or metalloid and bismuth is a metal.

Elements gain or lose their valence electrons in order to reach stability. For example, nitrogen can gain 3 electrons from another element, resulting in 8 valence electrons (this is the magic number for element stability).

When nitrogen gains 3 electrons, it becomes a -3 anion, which means it is an atom with a negative charge. You might also hear these charges called oxidation states.

Sometimes group 5A elements lose electrons and form cations, or an atom with a positive charge. Depending on the group 5A element, there can be many oxidation states other than -3 including: +5, +3, +2, and +1.

I'll stop here, but the take home message here, is the elements in group 5A can have many different oxidation states, so I guess they have that in common!

Elements in this group usually form covalent bonds with other elements, which means electrons are shared in the bond. But some can also form ionic bonds, which means electrons are taken and given up in the bond.

As you are starting to see, there is quite a lot of variation among members within this group, so let's take a look at the individual elements.

Individual Elements in Group 5A

The most important element in this group is probably nitrogen. I already mentioned it makes up about 78% of the air you breathe, but here's a fun fact: the earth's atmosphere contains 4,000 trillion tons of nitrogen! To put that into perspective that is over 100 trillion grey whales.

As mentioned previously, nitrogen is the only member of this group that is a gas at room temperature. In fact nitrogen remains as a gas until it is cooled to about -320 degrees F! That's why liquid nitrogen is so cold!

Because it is so cold, liquid nitrogen is used to quickly freeze foods, store cells for research, and as a refrigerant. But nitrogen can be used in its non-liquid form as well, for example it is used in fertilizers, in explosives and even in dyes!

Nitrogen can also be found in amino acids in your body. Approximately 20% of the human body is made up of protein and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. So I guess you could say nitrogen is pretty vital to your overall wellbeing! It is also the main attraction in the nitrogen cycle where nitrogen travels from the air, to the soil, and into organisms.

So maybe nitrogen isn't so unrecognizable after all. As you move down the group, the next member of group 5A is phosphorus. Like nitrogen, phosphorus is a non-metal, but unlike nitrogen, it is a solid at room temperature.

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